The American Egg Board, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helped plan attacks on “Just Mayo”—a vegan mayonnaise product the egg board president described as a “major threat to the future of the egg product business.” Writing for the New Republic, Ted Genoways discusses how the egg board misused taxpayer funds.
As Genoway reports, the egg board is supposed to use its public funds to promote its own products, not attack competitors. However, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests revealed the egg board was doing exactly that.
According to Genoway, the board’s president, Joanne Ivy, “solicited ideas to thwart Hampton Creek, and suggested pushing the FDA to declare Just Mayo’s label misleading. She also used a go-between PR firm to pressure Whole Foods to drop the product.” Subsequently, policymakers have called for a complete investigation into the USDA, and agricultural producers have lobbied for exemptions from FOIA requests.
Beyond the obvious concern that taxpayers are subsidizing groups that promote and oppose private sector goods, it is even more problematic that politically entrenched industry groups may be using government agencies to unlawfully attack and undermine competitors.